The Attorney General has once again in Parliament made misleading statements in relation to Worker’s representatives in the FNPF Board. In trying to justify his Government’s decision to not have Worker’s Representatives on the Board of FNPF, he gave two reasons.
Firstly, he claimed that Mr. Urai and I were paid exorbitant amounts as FNPF Board members from 2007 to 2009. The facts are somewhat quite different. All Board members including Employers and Government representatives of FNPF were paid the same Directors fees. These fees were set many years prior to 2007 and were not reviewed during our tenure. The amounts quoted by the Attorney General are incorrect. FNPF never ever paid those amounts quoted. Board members were paid according to the responsibilities they undertook at various other institutions that they were forced to serve on. Again the fees paid by these institutions were set prior to 2007 and were not reviewed during our tenure. Current Board members are paid the same. The Attorney General appears to insinuate that the payments to Board Members were unjustified and wrong. I challenge him to prove this. There was nothing wrong with whatever payments all Board Members received. It clearly appears convenient for him only to single out Workers Representatives. While the Attorney General at every opportunity tries to distract people from the real issues by parroting these payments, he has not been as forthcoming with what he has been paid in salary, allowance and benefits he has drawn from the taxpayers funds over the years. It would certainly sound more credible if he was equally open about payments to him over the last 10 years. I had during the last election challenged the Attorney General to produce his tax returns, including payments from his Aunt’s firm of Aliz Pacific Limited and I would similarly do the same and that we let the public decide. He chose not to even respond to that challenge. I stand by this undertaking and even say, let’s do it for the last 10 years. If this man is sincere about his concerns, he will accept the challenge.
We have not forgotten that he was not even prepared to release the Auditor General’s report prior to the last elections and even after releasing them after the elections scuttled the full examination of those reports in Parliament by removing the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee and putting his very own in that position. There are many other such examples; let’s say the Cyclone Winston’s funds, despite many calls from all circles to make public the amounts of funds received, from whom and the disbursements, nothing has been forth coming. People affected by the Cyclone continue to live in tents today. The current $1,000 handouts, supposedly from the Indian Government. There is absolutely no accountability nor transparency or even any form of monitoring of where the funds are actually going and how many new businesses have come up. He may also want to justify the real exorbitant pay rise and allowances he and his cabinet received. He may want to tell the public why he and the Prime Minister need to be paid $2,000 to $3,000 a day as travel allowance. It would be interesting for him to reveal how much allowances he and the Prime Minister have been paid over the last 10 years apart from salary and benefits. This would put matters in the right perspective and definitely redefine the word “exorbitant”. This Government has been the least transparent and accountable Fiji has ever had and yet has the audacity to point fingers and attempt to malign others.
The second reason given is that, Mr. Urai and I made bad decisions on Natadola and Momi projects. The fact is that neither of us were on the Board of FNPF when decisions were made to undertake those projects. These decisions were made much prior to 2007. We were brought in to save the Natadola Project which we did and it is common knowledge that we saved millions of dollars which members of FNPF would have lost had we not taken some very drastic actions at the time. We have letters of commendation from the FNPF external auditors for the work that we did in Natadola. As for Momi, we had absolutely nothing to do with that project. Records can be examined. The AG was aware of these facts but appears to have had a convenient memory lapse. I again challenge him to tell the public what wrong decisions is he referring to that the Workers Representatives have taken or is it just hot air to justify removing workers representatives from the FNPF Board and putting in his own people so that FNPF simply becomes another department of Government.
The Fiji Trades Union Congress has been adamant that the FNPF belongs to the workers of this country and not the Government. There were perfectly good reasons for having a tripartite board to maintain checks and balances. We reiterate that the Board of FNPF was removed in 2009 because the Board would not agree to a Government request for another $500m to be put aside to fund the Government budget deficit for that year. The strategy of this Government is to distract from the real issues. It is time to come clean Mr AG and not take advantage of Parliament and your very own Fiji Sun and FBC.
Mr Felix Anthony, FTUC National Secretary